Nick once wrote this story about zombies that reproduce by raping instead of biting. I think it humanized the zombies, which sort of defeats the point. They’re supposed to be scary like horror movie scary, not like scary scary. You ought to be able to look into a crowd of normal people, pick the dude with the rotting face and the jagged gait and say, hey look, that guy’s a zombie! Let’s shoot him in the head so he doesn’t rape us.
Anyway, if zombies had to fuck to reproduce, they’d be just like people. And then what would keep every man from being a zombie? And what if you couldn’t tell them apart from normal dudes? And you know they wouldn’t be those slow, groaning Romero zombies; they would be fast and attractive and drive their dad’s car to pick you up before prom. The undead would be indistinguishable from the living. Point is, I’ll never be able to get high when I’m home alone without wondering if some zombie is going to crawl out of the garage and rape the shit out of me. And then I’ll become one too and I won’t be able to stop myself from attacking everyone. It’s hard to meet girls when you’re a zombie rapist.
Rape isn’t funny. Rachel the feminazi keeps telling me that. Murder is funny. Bestiality is funny. Necrophilia is funny. But you can’t joke about rape. She didn’t bother explaining why. I think it’s because it’s a real thing. Not to say that people don’t really get murdered, animals don’t really get fucked, and corpses don’t really get felt up in their graves or anything. But rape happens pretty often, apparently. I believe her because her hair is long and brown and always clean. She smells like apples and her eyebrows press together when she listens. She has a small constellation of beauty marks on her left cheekbone and thin pink lips. She’s always reading something. So when she says things like "you can’t joke about rape" with her eyebrows all smooshed, I can’t help but trust that she knows what she’s talking about.
I’d been told that camping alone is a bad idea. I could be eaten by bears like in that one movie about the guy that got eaten by bears. I could get raped by forest zombies. Or I could break a leg or something. There was that hiker who got his arm stuck under a boulder and he had to break the bone and slice his hand off with a swiss army knife. I think I’d rather just starve. I like my hands and can’t stand the thought of some other hiker, years down the road, discovering my leftover hand bones and keeping them like a souvenir of their camping trip. Maybe if I had to cut off my hand I’d come back, after healing from my amateur amputation of course, and save those bones in a jar. I could bring them on dates and show them to girls so they’d know how tough I am. Hey look, I cut off my own hand once. Am I butch enough? What if I cut off a leg? I’d cut off a leg for you, you’re so beautiful.
I can’t imagine why I don’t have a girlfriend.
Anyway, I’ve never been one to not do something just because it’s a bad idea. I figured I deserved a vacation and everything sort of fell into place easily. Besides, the forest was actually real nice. Then again, I’ve never seen a shitty forest. Then again I’ve never seen any forest except this one. Yosemite is only four hours from San Francisco, but who would have brought me here except me? Luckily, or stupidly depending on how you look at it, dad left his keys behind before he left on Friday, so I didn’t have to hitchhike to Yosemite after all. So even though the journey wasn’t as glamorous or interesting as I’d hoped, I was lucky to have the truck not too far down the trail, in case things went terribly terribly wrong, or in case I got scared and decided to leave early. I didn’t plan on chickening out though.
I did wish Rachel was with me. When she asked me where I was going I didn’t know what to say, except to reassure her I’d be back. I had enough food for a week, my tent, sleeping bag, and toothbrush, a water purifier, and a book suggested by Nick, "The Zombie Survival Guide".
What I didn’t realize is that although the food would last the duration of the trip, the book would only last the first two hours. So I reread it again and again and until it was the only thing that I could think about. With the exception of the feminazi. An inability to wonder about anything except plainclothes zombies and pretty feminists makes for confusing dreams.
My dad never bothered to explain feminism to me, although he did say that just because I’m a lezzie it doesn’t mean I can go around treating girls like meat. Not that I ever did, but I think he sees me like a young boy in puberty and wants to make sure I don’t break any hearts. I swear, I don’t treat girls like meat, although after my discussion with dad I was tempted to make a pun about wanting to "pork" the girl next door. I guess it didn’t seem appropriate. But seriously, she’s already in college and has enormous breasts and she always looks at me funny. I think dating an older woman would be a good idea. She could teach me everything and I could finally get into the girl bars because I’d be with this chick and no one would even think of asking for my ID or anything because she’s just that hot. And then maybe I could live in her house instead of my dad’s and we could get a cat or something. And I’d get a motorcycle and a real leather jacket and no one would hit me on my way home from school or whatever.
I’m not afraid of getting hit though. I’m not afraid of anything, with the exception of zombies. And some guys that might be rapists. Not Nick, because he’s smaller than me and he just plays Grand Theft Auto and writes dirty stories all day. And not my dad because one time I caught him watching West Side Story and crying, and honestly, he’s not a violent guy. And I’m not afraid of the assholes in the blue mustang that yelled "dyke!" at me last month while speeding by. And I let them know it, throwing rocks and yelling. Rachel was walking home with me and even if I had been scared, which I totally wasn’t, I wouldn’t have let her see me sweating over a couple douchebags like that. Besides, why be scared of some guys who couldn’t even say that shit to my face. They didn’t have the balls to rape anyone.
But no matter how good I was at standing up to neighborhood jerks, I began to get a little nervous once the clouds started rolling in over my campsite. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about rain, I hadn’t thought to bring a tarp or anything and my tent had a mesh vent at the top that was definitely not waterproof. I did bring a water repellent windbreaker, so I got ready to put that on and wait out the weather if things got any worse. And they did. As the water started coming down, I curled up in my jacket and found a boulder with a slight overhang to lean against and stash my camping supplies under.
My campsite overlooked Cathedral Lake, a perfectly glassy body of water surrounded by enormous white and yellow rock formations. There were a thousand trees and they all looked like they were made out of pipe cleaners because not one branch was out of place. The sky had already begun to gray when I arrived in the morning, and now it was brimming with dark cotton balls. The surface of the lake prickling with motion, harder and harder, until the rain was really coming down. The weather report hadn’t mentioned icy weather so I didn’t think I’d get hypothermia or whatever, but who knows? You can get hypothermia anywhere, even the desert. I didn’t have any firewood and it was too wet to be out gathering sticks. So I decided to just sit under the ledge and wait for some unsuspecting moose to come by so I could kill it and crawl into its steaming corpse until morning. I saw that on National Geographic, I think.
If Rachel were here maybe she would help me with my algebra homework again. Maybe she would make me a sandwich and let me touch her hair. I could ask her questions about the patriarchy and watch her get all angry when she talks about injustice. And I wouldn’t have to kill a moose or anything to stay warm, we could just keep each other warm and I’d put my arm around her shoulder. But then she might push me off and tell me she’d rather get hypothermia then touch a girl and then I’d be alone in the woods again and probably get raped by a zombie.
My hands were all cold and wet. I tried to sing a song that was as miserable as I was, but all I could think about was zombies. So I sang that song by the Cranberries. BUT YOU SEE. IT’S NOT ME. IT’S NOT MY. FA MA LEE. IN YO HEAD IN YO HEAD THEY ARE FIGHTING. The trees moaned like the undead under the weight of the storm, the water shook like it was full of life, the stone around the lake was slick and a dark reflective shade of red. WHAT’S IN YO HEEEEAD IN YO HEEEEEEAD ZOOOOMBIE ZOOOMBIE ZOOMBIE EEE EEE EEE OHHH OHH OHH. I sang loudly and quietly and then not at all. And the rain subsided. The storm hadn’t lasted long, but it was long enough to wear me out. I quickly assembled my little tent, crawled into my sleeping bag, and passed right out.
I dreamed that Rachel and Nick and I were the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Except Nick didn’t quite look like Nick, but he still was Nick, you know? Rachel looked the same as usual, just taller and her eyes were real bright and wide and she looked so scared. And I just wanted to keep her safe so we all hid out in an abandoned 7-11 and ate Pringles until the zombies had all raped each other to death. And I thought we were safe but then Nick turn around and started spitting blood and walking towards us with this look in his eyes and I had to shoot him in the head with a sawed off shotgun. And I cried and Rachel said "thank you!" and we kissed and walked out into the new world holding hands.
I woke up to some bird screeching in the tree above my tent. I stumbled onto the wet forest floor, wrapped myself in all the spare clothes I’d brought, and walked briskly to the edge of Cathedral Lake. It was real early, maybe five, judging by the light. I couldn’t see the sleek surface of the water, a fog had settled thick and low over everything. The trees were dark behind me and the lake had a beautifully spooky glow to it. I walked back towards my site to piss.
All I wanted was to be dry and warm, and to eat something that didn’t involve the premade soggy PB and J sandwiches and giant bag of Doritos I had brought with me. It was at that moment my camping trip officially ended.
Embarrassed to have survived just one night alone, I wasn’t particularly willing to go straight to Nick’s house and admit defeat. I drove home as quickly as I could. Fortunately my dad was still out of town. I hoped he wouldn’t notice the sudden increase in mileage on the truck, or the near empty gas tank. Or the bugs squished all over the windshield. Or the Doritos I spilled on the passenger seat. In spite of my usual line of thoughts upon pulling up to the house, the college girl next door was the absolute furthest thing from my mind. I parked, ran into the garage to get my bike, and started pedaling towards Rachel’s house.
She didn’t look surprised to see me. She raised an eyebrow and took a big bite out of a chewed up green apple. She stepped back, gesturing for me to enter. I sat down at her kitchen table. The tablecloth was brown and had sunflowers on it.
"Well?" She sat across from me.
"I survived!" I said, proud.
"For one night."
"Well, yeah, but I got bored out there, you know."
She snorted a little. "Sure you did."
"And… I missed you."
She didn’t break eye contact like I’d feared. Instead she took an enormous bite from the apple, the juice dribbling off her lips. Rachel paused for a moment to wipe up her mouth with the back of her hand. "I’m glad you’re back."
I grinned at her like an idiot.
"So Nick wrote a new story." She picked at her cuticles.
"Yeah. This one’s about vampires."
I was strangely disappointed. "Not zombies?"
"Nah, but they’re still undead."
"That’s cool, I guess." I stared at the apple core she’d abandoned on the tablecloth.
"They reproduce by fucking."
"Makes sense." I laughed and watched her get up from her chair.
Rachel reached for my hand. "Wanna go see him? He printed out a copy for you."
Fingers laced, we passed her garage door and the guy with the pervert beard on the corner without any mention of zombies or rapists. The sun was beyond bright and my palm sweated against hers. She held on anyway.